Florida lawmakers agree on sanctuary city ban

by | May 2, 2019

Florida’s so-called sanctuary city ban passed out of the Senate and House Thursday afternoon and is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

Before its passage, the bill sparked more contentious debate in both chambers. The debate moved back to the Florida Senate Thursday afternoon after the House amended the Senate version earlier in the week.

Democrats argue there are no sanctuary cities in Florida and accused Republicans of trying to use immigration to capture political headlines.

“There is no great crisis,” insisted Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami Beach. “There are just those that wanted to go ahead and codify, and enumerate specific types of people, specific classes of people, to just say, ‘Incase you didn’t know beforehand, you’re really not welcome.”

But Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, argued that immigration and 800,000 undocumented immigrants pose a serious threat to Florida.

“We have a problem, senators,” Simmons said to his Senate colleagues. “That problem is we have an unsustainable situation where there are individuals who are undocumented in this state and in this nation — 800,000 in this state — that we cannot ignore.

“The fact that there has not been a solution to this unsustainable problem does not mean we ignore the law,” Simmons went on to say.

The debate not only divided lawmakers along party lines in each chamber, but also, for awhile, pitted House Republicans against their counterparts in the Senate.

The bill would ban so-called sanctuary cities in Florida and would require police agencies to work federal immigration officials.

The ban would require local law enforcement to honor federal immigration requests for an “immigration detainer.” A detainer is a request that another law enforcement agency detain a person based on probable cause to believe that the person is a “removable alien” under federal immigration law. The bill would essentially make the “request” a requirement in Florida.

The House version had tougher penalties which had been a sticking point between the chambers. The House plan would have allowed local government employees and elected officials to be suspended or removed from office. It would have also allowed the state to fine local governments up to $5,000 for each day they have sanctuary city policies in place.

The Senate proposal gives power to the governor to remove local officials from office when they violate the ban. It also gives the attorney general the power to bring civil actions against local governments.

When the debate was over, the Senate amended its original proposal onto the House bill setting up a potential showdown between the two chambers which could have led to the ultimate death of the sanctuary city ban this session.

However, the bill was immediately sent back to the House, which decided to go with the Senate version, avoiding a back-and-forth showdown with the Senate heading into the final day of the session. The sanctuary ban legislation will now be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. DeSantis made such a ban one of his priorities heading into this year’s session.

The governor released this written statement at 7 p.m.,Thursday:

“Earlier this year, I asked the Florida Legislature to present me with a bill this session that upholds the rule of law and addresses sanctuary cities and counties in Florida. We are a stronger state when we protect our residents, foster safe communities and respect the work of law enforcement at every level. Local law enforcement agencies can and should work with the federal government to ensure that accountability and justice are one in our state. I’d like to thank Senate President Bill Galvano, House Speaker Jose Oliva, Senator Joe Gruters and Representative Cord Byrd for recognizing the importance of this issue.”    

-Gov. Ron DeSantis 


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